The Environment in the Age of the Internet

The Environment in the Age of the Internet Heike Graf (ed.)
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How do we talk about the environment? Does this communication reveal and construct meaning? Is the environment expressed and foregrounded in the new landscape of digital media?

The Environment in the Age of the Internet: Activists, Communication, and the Digital Landscape is an interdisciplinary collection that draws together research and answers from media and communication studies, social sciences, modern history, and folklore studies. Edited by Heike Graf, its focus is on the communicative approaches taken by different groups to ecological issues, shedding light on how these groups tell their distinctive stories of "the environment". This book draws on case studies from around the world and focuses on activists of radically different kinds: protestors against pulp mills in South America, resistance to mining in the Sámi region of Sweden, the struggles of indigenous peoples from the Arctic to the Amazon, gardening bloggers in northern Europe, and neo-Nazi environmentalists in Germany. Each case is examined in relation to its multifaceted media coverage, mainstream and digital, professional and amateur.

Stories are told within a context; examining the "what" and "how" of these environmental stories demonstrates how contexts determine communication, and how communication raises and shapes awareness. These issues have never been more urgent, this work never more timely. The Environment in the Age of the Internet is essential reading for everyone interested in how humans relate to their environment in the digital age.

The Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies has generously contributed towards the publication of this volume.

The Environment in the Age of the Internet: Activists, Communication, and the Digital Landscape

Heike Graf (ed.) | July 2016
192 | 16 colour illustrations | 6.14" x 9.21" (234 x 156 mm)
ISBN Paperback: 9781783742431
ISBN Hardback: 9781783742448
ISBN Digital (PDF): 9781783742455
ISBN Digital ebook (epub): 9781783742462
ISBN Digital ebook (mobi): 9781783742479
ISBN Digital (XML): 9781783746293
DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0096
BIC subject codes: RN (The environment), RNT (Social impact of environmental issues), RNA (Environmentalist thought and ideology), JFD (Media studies), J (Society and social sciences), PSAF (Ecological science, the Biosphere), UD (Digital lifestyle); BISAC: SCI019000 (SCIENCE / Earth Sciences / General), SCI026000 (SCIENCE / Environmental Science), SCI042000 (SCIENCE / Earth Sciences / Meteorology & Climatology), SOC026040 (SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / Social Theory); OCLC Number: 958163855.

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Notes on Contributors

1. Introduction
    Heike Graf
    Resonance in News Media
    About this Volume

2. The Environment in Disguise: Insurgency and Digital Media in the Southern Cone
    Virginia Melián
    Digital Media and Protest
    The Study
    Camouflaged Arguments
    User-Generated Content and Mainstream Media
    Networking beyond the Digital
    Mobile Personal Engagement
    Opportunities for Public Debate
    Civic Engagement and Media Practice

3. Exploitation or Preservation? Your Choice! Digital Modes of Expressing Perceptions of Nature and the Land
    Coppélie Cocq
    Mining Boom, Land Rights, and Perceptions of the Environment
    YouTube: A Channel for Environmental Activism
    Contesting Narratives
    Media Logic
    Polarisation or Zone of Contact

4. Natural Ecology Meets Media Ecology: Indigenous Climate Change Activists’ Views on Nature and Media
    Anna Roosvall and Matthew Tegelberg
    Defining Traditional Ecological Knowledge
    Defining Media Ecology
    Method and Material

5. The Culture of Nature: The Environmental Communication of Gardening Bloggers
    Heike Graf
    Garden Blogs
    Environmental Communication from a Systems-Theoretical Perspective
    Difference-Theoretical Approach
    The Role of Topics
    Ecology and Gardening in the Mainstream Media
    The Topics of Gardening Blogs
    Consumption: Developing/Refusing a ‘Buyosphere’
    Production: Developing Green Gardening

6. The Militant Media of Neo-Nazi Environmentalism
    Madeleine Hurd and Steffen Werther
    NPD Media: Party Websites
    The NPD and the Environment
    The Neo-Nazi World of Umwelt & Aktiv
    Nature-Oriented Action: A Cure for National Ills
    Women, Youth, and Germanic Nature: From Umwelt to Aktion


Coppélie Cocq ( is Associate Professor of Sámi Studies at Humlab, Umeå University, Sweden. Her research interests lie in the fields of folkloristics, digital humanities and environmental humanities, with specific focus on storytelling, place-making and revitalisation in Indigenous contexts. Her recent publications include ‘Reading Small Data in Indigenous Contexts: Ethical Perspectives’, in Research Methods for Reading Digital Data in the Digital Humanities, edited by Griffin and Hayler (2016); ‘Mobile Technology in Indigenous Landscapes’, in Indigenous People and Mobile Technologies, edited by Dyson, Grant and Hendriks (2016); and ‘Indigenous Voices on the Web: Folksonomies and Endangered Languages’ published in the Journal of American Folklore in 2015.

Heike Graf ( is Associate Professor of Media and Communication Studies at Södertörn University, Stockholm. Her research and teaching centre around environmental communication, with specific interest in theory and digital communication. Recent publications include ‘From Wasteland to Flower Bed: Ritual in the Website Communication of Urban Activist Gardeners’ published in Culture Unbound: Journal of Current Cultural Research in 2014 and ‘Examining Garden Blogs as a Communication System’, published in the International Journal of Communication in 2012.

Madeleine Hurd ( is Associate Professor of Modern History at Södertörn University, Stockholm. Her research has focused on emotions and gender in medialized rituals of spatial belonging in inter-war Germany and in German far-right environmentalism. Recent publications include ‘Nature, the Volk, and the Heimat: The Narratives and Practices of the Far Right Ecologist’ (co-authored with Steffen Werther), published in Baltic Worlds in 2013; ‘Contested Masculinities in Inter-War Flensburg’, in Bordering the Baltic: Scandinavian Boundary-drawing Processes, 1900–2000 (2010), which she also edited; and ‘Reporting on Civic Rituals: Texts, Performers and Audience’, in Ritual and Media: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, edited by Brosius and Polit (2010).

Virginia Melián ( is Assistant Professor of Media Studies and Latin American Studies at Stockholm University. Her research has focused on media and environmental movements in Latin America. Her overview of Swedish Research on Latin America will be published in the forthcoming Distant Gazes, edited by Fredrik Uggla.

Anna Roosvall ( is Associate Professor of Media Studies (IMS) at Stockholm University. Her research is centred on the nation-globalisation continuum and theories of justice and solidarity in relation to media in four related areas: climate change and indigenous peoples; migration, mobility and the politics of place; world new images; and cultural journalism. She is currently working with Matthew Tegelberg on the book Media and Transnational Climate Justice: Indigenous Activism and Climate Politics, which will be published by Peter Lang.

Matthew Tegelberg ( is Assistant Professor of Social Science at York University, Canada. His research on cultural tourism, media representations of indigenous peoples and environmental communication has appeared in Tourist Studies, Triple C: Communication, Capitalism, & Critique, International Communication Gazette, and in several edited collections. His current work places emphasis on the impact new media technologies and practices are having in these areas of study. He is part of the research network MediaClimate.

Steffen Werther ( is Senior Lecturer and Researcher of Historical and Contemporary Studies at Södertörn University in Stockholm. He is interested in German and Scandinavian history, from the nineteenth century to the present day, with a focus on nationalism, racial theory and National Socialist ideology. His doctoral thesis examined the implementation of the SS’s Greater Germanic idea in Denmark. His latest publications include: ‘Nordic-Germanic Dreams and National Realities: A Case Study of the Danish Region of Sønderjylland, 1933–1945’, in Racial Science in Hitler’s New Europe, edited by Anton Weiss-Wendt and Rory Yeomans (2013); and ‘Go East, Old Man: Space, Ritual and the Politics of Memory among Europe’s Waffen-SS Veterans’ (co-authored with Madeline Hurd), published in Culture Unbound in 2014.

1. Introduction (Heike Graf)

The introduction provides a common framework for the variety of case studies in this volume, which are situated at the intersection of communication, environment, and media. Each chapter examines how "the environment” finds resonance in different communications, and how those communications are conditioned by different types of media, technology, political environment, and the target group of the communication. Mass media, and particularly the news media’s focus on conflict and danger, creates a contextual rhetoric of fear and anxiety regarding the environment; several case studies in this book demonstrate that these rhetorical strategies are also used by activists, environmentalists, and ideologists.

2. The Environment in Disguise: Insurgency and Digital Media in the Southern Cone (Virginia Melián)

This chapter analyzes how environmental activists used digital media to formulate, disseminate and organize an environmental protest action against the construction of pulp mills on the banks of the Uruguay River and against monoculture forestry in Uruguay. Three different groups, one grassroots organization based in Argentina and two environmental NGOs in Uruguay, led the protests from 2005 until 2009.  The chapter traces the differences and commonalities between the NGO activists’ and the grassroots activists’ uses of digital media. NGO activists viewed media practices as a traditional one-way communication from the organization, whereas grassroots activists’ use of digital media was becoming a more personal and social form of communication. Age was an important factor, as older activists did not feel comfortable engaging openly in social media. Both the NGOs and grassroots activists saw the national media as the most powerful vehicle for increasing awareness about the protest because a wider range of people could be reached that way than through online, user-generated media. Given that environmental norms are generally weak in Latin America, the protest groups formulated their arguments in political and economic terms, rather than environmental terms. This "discourse camouflage” was designed to resonate with the priorities of national media.

3. Exploitation or Preservation? Your Choice! Digital Modes of Expressing Perceptions of Nature and the Land (Coppélie Cocq)

This chapter presents a case study of two YouTube videos disseminated as part of an activist campaign against mining in Sweden’s Sámi region. The choice of aesthetics, language, and principles of form indicates that the producers designed their videos according to the "media logic” of activist media. Detailed descriptions of the videos demonstrate how elements such as music, images, and narrative structure express, shape, and convey the activists’ message. The videos are used to create a space for marginalized voices and counter discourses, and for diffusion of information. While the videos do not invite dialogue with viewers, they give an illusion of interaction with a call to action: "you” can choose how the narrative will continue, how it will end.

4. Natural Ecology Meets Media Ecology: Indigenous Climate Change Activists’ Views on Nature and Media (Anna Roosvall and Matthew Tegelberg)

This chapter presents an analysis of interviews with activists working to highlight Indigenous perspectives on climate change and the threat climate change poses to many Indigenous communities. The authors begin by distinguishing between Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and Western scientific approaches to climate change. It then presents and discusses media ecology theories. Three aspects of media ecologies are particularly noted: how mainstream and alternative media work separately and relate to each other; how national and local media work separately and relate to each other; and how non-Indigenous and Indigenous media work separately and relate to each other. This theoretical discussion provides a framework for the analysis of interviews conducted with Indigenous activists. The chapter includes extensive quotes from the open-ended interviews. Interviewees describe the limitations of a national news ecology dominated by mainstream media, which rarely makes room for indigenous perspectives or knowledge of climate change. They also comment on the ways in which their own media practices, situated within diverse news ecologies, attempt to create dialogue and generate awareness of these issues. The activists call for further integration of TEK perspectives into the existing news media ecosystem. The authors conclude that these changes are needed to establish a more democratic and effective means of addressing climate change.

5. The Culture of Nature: The Environmental Communication of Gardening Bloggers (Heike Graf)

This chapter analyzes approximately fifty Swedish and German gardening blogs to examine "ordinary” people’s media communication about environmental issues. The "difference-theoretical approach” that frames this study is described. The author finds that the communicative reactions of the garden bloggers to ecological concerns cohere around two ideas: domination over or partnership with nature. Blog entries generally concentrate on two main topics: consumption in terms of goods, and production in terms of gardening. These are topics with a high potential of connectivity. The chapter includes numerous quotes from the blogs as well as summarizations of the comments in response to blog posts. The topic of consumption can be addressed from several different perspectives; it is possible to argue for more or even less consumption without being aware of ecological consequences. However, topics concerned with production in home gardens are generally dominated by arguments for sustainable gardening, at least in text-based blogs. The author concludes that blogging is not so much about convincing people with different opinions as it is about coordinating the network of people who share similar interests and opinions.

6. The Militant Media of Neo-Nazi Environmentalism (Madeleine Hurd and Steffen Werther)

This chapter examines how neo-Nazi websites and print media wed the slogans, symbols, visuals, and narratives of the radical patriot to those of the homeland-loving environmentalist, and how this combination results in a coherent set of complementary media messages. The case history is the media of the National-Democratic Party of Germany (NPD), focusing on the years 2010–2013. The chapter analyzes the NPD’s web presence and the magazine Umwelt & Aktiv, including images, tone, themes, and calls to environmentalist action, and the dimensions of gender and youth in the messaging. These media deploy the key concept of Heimat, which comprises territory, culture, and people, and which the neo-Nazis wish to defend against perceived enemies, such as immigrants and internationalists. The frames of fear (of threats to the Heimat) and nostalgia (for what must be protected) are combined in a narrative of "irreparability,” effectively linking the visuals and narratives of militant xenophobia to biocentric environmentalism. The standard anti-globalization, pro-environment messaging, which is also used by ecocritics on the left, is given a special, frightening slant: the need to protect German (and European) biomass.